FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Bill Belichick reacted to his 300th career win just about the same way he reacted to the previous 299.
“It’s a great privilege to coach this team and to coach the guys that I’ve coached throughout my career,” Belichick said after the Patriots gave him No. 300 (including postseason) with a 27-13 victory over the Browns at rainy and windy Gillette Stadium Sunday.
“Fortunately I didn’t play in any of those (wins), that’s a good thing for us – but I’ve had a lot of good players, a lot of great players, they’re the ones that win the games. I’ve had a lot of great assistant coaches on my staff, the ones at Cleveland and certainly here. I was a part of those but honestly, players win games this league.”
Said defensive captain Dont’a Hightower, who scored on a 26-yard fumble recovery Sunday: “I just think it’s crazy. I couldn’t name one thing that I’ve done 300 times (in his life).”
Added Tom Brady, who threw a pair of touchdown passes to Julian Edelman: “It’s pretty amazing … 300 wins is pretty spectacular.
“He’s the best coach of all time and it’s a privilege to have played for him for as many years as I have. He’s taught me so much, on and off the field – he’s just been a great mentor for me.”
Edelman, while making the case for Belichick as the greatest coach ever in any sport, was asked to describe his coach in one word. “I don’t have a great vocabulary … extraordinary,” he said.
Owner Robert Kraft made a locker room speech and presented Belichick with the game ball.
The undefeated Patriots concluded the junior varsity portion of their schedule by disposing of the Browns. The Pats (8-0) finished the first half of a soft schedule that included no serious opponents by handling the sloppy Browns (2-5) – but now begin a stretch of more-difficult games – starting next Sunday night at Baltimore, and continuing at Philadelphia before a home game against Dallas.
The seven opponents in the first half (the Jets fell twice) are a combined 13-36 – and that includes Buffalo’s 5-1. The Bills lost Sunday, leaving the Patriots 2½ games ahead of Buffalo atop the AFC East.
The Patriots have outscored these opponents by a combined count of 250-61 and no team has scored more than 14 points against them.
Probably thanks to the elements, this win was hardly a thing of beauty -- the penalty-ridden (15, for 85 yards) Browns (2-5, with three straight losses) making all kinds of mistakes but actually getting as close as 17-10 in the third quarter.
Cleveland turned the ball over on three straight offensive plays in the first quarter, one at the end of a 48-yard run by Nick Chubb. Hightower ran for his TD on the first of two Chubb fumbles as the Pats took a 17-0 lead.
Lawrence Guy forced one of the fumbles and also had a gift interception with Baker Mayfield flipping the ball right to him in the middle of the line.
The three takeaways gave New England a league-high 25 for the season and the touchdown was the fourth for the defense – six counting blocked punts for scores. The defense has allowed only four TDs.
But down by 17, Chubb and Baker Mayfield turned this into a competitive game, Mayfield hitting Demetrius Harris with a 21-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter and Austin Seibert drilling a 38-yard field goal in the third quarter to make it 17-10.
Then, Brady, faced with a third-and-10 at his own 16, flipped a screen pass out to James White, who sprinted 59 yards to the Cleveland 26. Four plays later, Brady threw his second TD pass of the day to Edelman – this one from 14 yards out – and it was 24-10.
Brady, amid a heavy day of Twitter reports concerning what he may or may not do next season (will he stay, go elsewhere or retire?), also threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Edelman in that first quarter. He finished 20-for-36 for 259 yards and was also sacked three times. Edelman caught eight passes for 78 yards.
Mayfield was 20-for-31 for 194 yards. He was sacked five times.
Odell Beckham Jr., covered by Stephon Gilmore, caught five passes for 52 yards, including a late 31-yarder, for the Browns.
Mike Nugent kicked two field goals for the Patriots but also had one blocked and missed a 34-yarder wide left.
Chubb shook off the early troubles and finished with 131 yards on 20 carries. Sony Michel ran for 74 yards on 21 carries for the home team.
Mohamed Sanu, playing his first game with the Patriots after the trade from Atlanta, had his first catch with his new team late – a 4-yarder – in in the first half – and a 19-yarder in the fourth quarter.
Chubb broke loose for his nifty long run, but Jonathan Jones caught him from behind with incredible closing speed and slapped the ball loose – Devin McCourty falling on it.
Notes: Belichick, whose first win actually came at New England while he was coaching the Browns in 1991, reached his milestone in his 434th game, the fastest to the number. George Halas (344) and Don Shula got their 300th in their 445th and 455th games, respectively. … The win gave the Patriots a 38-3 record under Belichick when facing first-, or second-year quarterbacks. … Heading into the game, Beckham said, “Going against Bill Belichick, he is someone I have much respect for. I’ll probably talk to him before and after the game. He tells me the same thing every time. He’s like ‘I hope you enjoy today because there is not going to be much for you.’” … In the important note of the day, the Patriots improved to 6-0 when wearing all blue – those uniforms introduced in 2016. … The Patriots don’t play another home game until Nov. 24, when Dallas visits. … Brady and his son, Ben, waited outside the visitors’ locker room after the game to meet Beckham.